DrD, UBB, Ret.

I’ve decided to claim retirement.

Desiree Ducharme, Used Book Buyer, Retired.

Retired adjective 1. having left ones job and ceased to work. 2. archaic (of a place) quiet and secluded; not seen or frequented by many people.

“Are you buying books still?”

“No, not professionally. I’ve retired.”

It’s nice. It feels safe. Like Nana’s house in summer. Sun warmed slate floor. Humming bird feeders swaying their sweet nectar through the air. A Red rock air, thick before the monsoon. A cup of coffee, Are You Being Served? followed by Bob Ross and a game of cribbage. Retired.

Sounds nice. I conjure this moment as I pass the buying counter any given Saturday. The Dragons safe behind plexi walls. Adding to the hoard. Adding to our hoard. Books stacked and restacked. I can’t actually hear the pages rustle as the buyers flip through them, but I feel the leaves through my hands as I wait for the elevator. I watch them roll tomes flyleaf to endpaper. I feel the rolls from my palms to my shoulders. Waves of gentle whispers crash nostalgic in my ear canal. I clench my palms and feel the edges of the slate floor in my Nana’s house. Warm yet hard. Retired.

Professional athletes still play their sport for fun, in their back yards, on random Tuesdays. On Tuesdays, I wander through the Gold room, scanning Mystery-C for mass markets. I can see it through the plexi as I check in with the desk staff. I casually check the cart of “new“ arrivals. The white printed transfer flag tempers my enthusiasm. It’s a mixed cart. New and used. I scan it anyway. A low hum runs through me.

“There’s a cart from Sunday in the cave.” Anna tells me. Neither one of us pretending. Sunday is a buying day, all used.

“Thanks.” I bob my head and begin to count slowly to 30. The hum grows.

“Anytime.” Eyes amused and sympathetic above the mask.

I decide to savor the hunt. No longer exposed to the constant thrill, the daily anticipation of discovery, I ration my fixed income of used book buying. After OpsFit, I check the air purifier in the cave and browse the cart. Resting in a crevasse between an annotated Chandler and a hard-cover Connelly, the aged, mustard-gold spine of a Cardinal Edition sends a jolt through me.

Death Comes As The End. “Her most unusual murder mystery!” The Altoids tin contains just enough loose change for me to take it home.

On Mondays, I interview for jobs that are not my job. They are just work that someone needs to do, or supervise, or direct, or develop. They are fine, decent positions. Leading fine, decent people and sometimes dragons. It’s work for the hoard. I struggle with asking for these leadership roles when my horde is so diminished. I was their leader. I came back to make space for them. They relied on me to advocate for them. That didn’t really pan out. I made space but not enough. It was never going to be enough. I wonder if I was not enough. Which is ridiculous. Of course I was not enough. A horde is by definition more than one. I became a fraction of myself. Fractions cannot do the work of exponents. It’s not personal, it’s just numbers. Numbers fixed in place provide certainty. Like the fixed, emotional income of retirement. I have only so much. It needs to be enough, it’s all I have. If I need more, I have to work at something else. I cannot go back because I’m retired.